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CPP Marks Day of Khmer Rouge Suffering

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party celebrated an annual day to remember the Khmer Rouge on Thursday, an occasion the opposition said was politically calculating and not useful.

May 20 was formerly known as the Day of Anger, for Khmer Rouge atrocities. The CPP celebrates the day every year, as “a reminder” so that it will not happen again, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday.

The CPP held a ceremony “for national reconciliation” and “to remember our pain” under the regime, Khieu Kanharith said.

However, opposition figures did not see it that way.

“We must settle this pain through an international court,” said Kem Sokha, head of the opposition Human Rights Party, which has three seats in parliament.

“When we see that Pol Pot’s regime violated human rights, the actual leaders must not repeat it,” he said, referring to rights abuses like forced evictions and land theft.

For his part, UN tribunal prosecutor Andrew Cayley said the day had nothing to do with the court, but was and important reminder “of what happened during that period of time.”

Thursday’s ceremony was held at the Choeung Ek “killing fields” outside Phnom Penh, where thousands of people from the Tuol Sleng torture center were sent for execution and mass burial under the Khmer Rouge.

The commemoration this year was led by political messages by the CPP, which is preparing for communal elections in 2012 and general elections in 2013.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the day was a show by the CPP of its liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, but it was unlikely to have much political sway.